2015 › Trails



Autism: The longitudinal relation between childhood autistic traits and psychosexual problems in early adolescence. The TRAILS study

Authors: Dekker LP, Hartman CA, Van der Vegt E, Verhulst FC, Van Oort FVA, Greaves-Lord K

Individuals with autistic traits are considered to be prone to develop psychosexual problems due to their limited social skills and insight. This study investigated the longitudinal relation between autistic traits in childhood (T1; age 10-12 years) and parent-reported psychosexual problems in early adolescence (T2; age 12-15 years). In a general population cohort study (n = 1873; the Tracking Adolescents' Individual Lives Survey (TRAILS)), autistic traits and psychosexual problems were determined. Logistic regression analyses were used to investigate whether childhood autistic traits, in individuals displaying no psychosexual problems in childhood, predicted the presence of psychosexual problems in adolescence, while controlling for pubertal development and conduct problems. Higher levels of autistic traits at T1 significantly predicted mild psychosexual problems at T2, above and beyond pubertal development and conduct problems. Particularly two dimensions of autistic traits at T1 were significant predictors; i.e. 'reduced contact/social interest' and 'not optimally tuned to the social situation'. Children with autistic traits - especially those with limited social interest and social regulation problems - showed to have a higher risk to develop psychosexual problems, albeit mild, in early adolescence as reported by parents. Although we showed that autistic traits predict psychosexual problems, it is only one of multiple predictors.

© The Author(s) 2014